NRC: Toolis twin embarking on new start

by Montanna Clare

For the first time in their lives, Alex and Ben Toolis are living on opposite sides of the world.

The twins have been inseparable since birth, but their rugby paths have diverged for the first time.

The past four months is  the longest time the pair has ever spent apart, with Alex joining the Rebels after playing together at Edinburgh for the past three seasons.

Toolis played 25 times for Edinburgh. Photo: Getty Images

Alex said living away from Ben had been the hardest part of his decision to move home but it would be a good thing for them in the long term. “It’s tough because you spend so much time with someone, especially a brother that’s doing the same thing, and you realise how much you support each other,” he said.

“It’s definitely something different but I think it’s been good for us just to do something as individuals rather than together.

“It’s different and it’s still tough but it’s a good thing as well.”

While he is back in Australia now, Alex said playing alongside Ben in Scotland was one of the greatest experiences he’s had.

“It was probably the best three years of my life, to be honest,” he said.

“Getting to play with my brother was unreal. It was just one of those things I’ll never forget.”

Alex and twin brother Ben played together at Edinburgh. Photo: Getty Images

The Brisbane-born lock has been playing for Melbourne Rising in the NRC this season, after signing a two-year deal with the Rebels and said a chance to play Super Rugby was the realisation of a long-time dream.

“It was very very tough to leave, but that being said I’ve always wanted to play Super Rugby, and it was just a good opportunity to come back,” he said.

“I’m definitely happy being in Melbourne. Brisbane is obviously my hometown but I appreciate that they’ve given me an opportunity, and I’m a Rebel through and through now.”

The NRC will be a change of pace for Toolis, after so much time in the Northern Hemisphere, where set piece reigns supreme but he said he was relishing the opportunity to return to a faster game and get some more running into his legs.

“It’s definitely tough on the lungs but it’s good preparation, especially for myself, getting used to that kind of rugby again,” he said.

“The NRC’s really good to get used to that kind of running rugby, and obviously in Europe you play more for points and it’s very set piece orientated.

“It’s definitely different. It’s just two different games.”

The 24-year-old had a brutal introduction to the competition, with a concussion in the Rising’s round three matchup against the NSW Country Eagles, but said that was all part of rugby.

Toolis representing the Melbourne Rising in the NRC.

“Yeah that was a tough game, there were plenty of big hits. I got a bit of a knock maybe 20 minutes in,” he said.

“I thought it was just a bit of whack going away, but it kind of hung around after a bit.

“After being away for a few years, there’s things you need to get used to again like leg tackles and little things like going hard over a ball.”

Despite the heavy hits, Toolis said that matchup was an entertaining one both on the field and in the clubhouse, with the teams catching up after the game in a hark back to old school rugby values.

“I know it sounds cliché, but that’s what rugby’s all about. It’s good that you can beat each other up on the field but you’re still able to have a beer and catch up with some old mates after the game,” he said.

“They’re all a good bunch of boys. It was good that both teams came together and had a couple of beers afterwards and listened to some live music.

“Rugby’s good like that. You meet new people but you also come up against old mates and people you went to school with.”

Toolis will line up with the Rising as they try to crack the playoff spots, with defence a focus for the Melbourne team.

“I definitely think we’re in with a shot for finals. I think our defence is pretty strong, and that’s where the competition is going to be won, just whoever has the best defence,” he said.

The Rising take on the UC Vikings Canberra, on Sunday at 1pm.